Before I had you, I didn't 'get' breastfeeding.
I didn't 'get' why women were so focused on it, so upset by their self-proclaimed 'failures', so elated by their victories.
I didn't get what the big deal about going into a bathroom or a car or fitting room was, or why some people just couldn't be 'modest' and cover up.
The first 4 months of your life, I rarely left the house. You wanted to nurse constantly and I was embarrassed by how awkward and uncoordinated our nursing sessions were. There was milk everywhere because of your poor latch, and my oversupply. I was always hunched in weird positions to fit in whatever stall / booth / room was away from the crowd enough for me not to seem like a 'spectacle'.
They were some of the most conflicting months of my life - I knew what I was doing was supposedly the 'best' thing I could do for you, and yet the glares made me feel sickly and embarrassed, enough so that I considered weaning you.
The early days were full of having to force myself to continue. I was (and still am) very lucky to have found wonderful support groups, both locally and online, to help me through the pain and soreness, the awkwardness and "is this normal?". They were there to help gently push me to continue and listen to the tears and angst on the harder days, offer helpful advice and personal anecdotes, and celebrate once H and I found our groove.
I never ever thought I'd say it, but I miss the days and nights where he'd fall asleep on me. I miss the way his small body used to fit perfectly in the crook of my arm. The way his little hands would rest on my chest as he peacefully filled his belly.
I used to get so frustrated that he used me like a "pacifier" (but refused an actual paci) and even more frustrated that he'd only sleep next to (aka: on) me and wake up the second I popped him off to try and escape to have a minute to myself. No matter how deeply he was slumbering, his eyes would spring open the second I left his side.
It was one of my favorite parts of the dream feeds, and a big reason why I kept doing it for so long - some days all I want to do is cuddle and get in some milk drunk snuggles. I actually almost enjoy the rough teething, because it makes his needs easily met - I can solve all of his problems with a hug, a snuggle and a little nursing. When things get crazy, when he's at the end of his rope, when the world is too rough, nursing solves it all. Watching him come to me, signing for "milk" with his arms outstretched and collapsing into my chest makes my heart burst.
For me, breastfeeding - this supposedly 'natural' mothering thing, has been anything but. It's been a long journey, that started out rough and uncomfortable but has now become so second nature for both of us. I never in my wildest dreams would have imagined that we'd still be nursing 18.5 months later, but I wouldn't have it any other way. Its exhausting and draining, but watching this little person watch me, while my body nourishes nourishes his, leaves me speechless and proud.
So this World Breastfeeding Week, please do us breastfeeding mamas a favor. Don't stare and give us mean looks, and please don't ask me to move into the bathroom. Instead, offer me words of encouragement, be supportive of our choices to breastfeed. Please don't insinuate we're being perverse or weird. Please acknowledge that we are doing what we feel is best. Help me celebrate my successes and applaud me when I reach my goals.
Be a part of normalizing our society, rather than shaming us for feeding our children.
Breastfeeding is an unsentimental metaphor for how love works, in a way. You don't decide how much and how deeply to love — you respond to the beloved, and give with joy exactly as much as they want.